|Apr 07, 2011 --
Outline Of Need:
Computers have become an indispensible part of everyday life for nearly everyone now days. They provide access to great resources for almost any challenge. But, for a generation that grew up without computers and email they can also present a new kind of barrier to everyday social interaction and job opportunities.
How Rural Development Helped:
Northwest Tennessee Human Resource Agency (NWTHRA) used a $30,000 Rural Business Enterprise Grant to purchase computers, peripherals and other equipment needed to establish a computer lab designed for older people returning to the workforce or needing new skills to compete in their workplace.
The idea for developing a computer lab for seniors came when an older NWTHRA client found a good job opportunity with the local affiliate of a national home and garden store. According to the agency's Senior Aides Director Melinda Goode, "He had the skills necessary for the job in the garden department. But, he was unable to complete the required online application because he was unfamiliar and uncomfortable with computers."
Betty Eason, another area retiree, tells a similar story, "Two years ago my daughter gave me her old computer to use, but I was so afraid of it I never touched it or even thought about using it. Even the very sight of it gave me shivers of intimidation so I covered it up with my dishtowels so as not to even have to look at it."
"I knew there had to be a way to help them overcome this barrier to employment," Goode said.
The training center opened in January 2010. Nearly all of those taking a wide range of classes said they need computer training to compete in the workforce. Demand for senior-oriented computer classes is so high that NWTHRA is already establishing labs in other counties.
As computer skills are acquired, participants quickly become familiar with online business, entertainment and communication opportunities. This demand drives up interest in home access to broadband, creating jobs at local providers and pulling advanced services into rural areas.
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